You wouldn’t step out the door without a healthy covering of SPF on your face , but do your hands get the same treatment? We didn’t think so. Despite the fact that our mitts are every bit as exposed as our face, they’re lucky if they get a cursory coat of hand cream , which often leads to them looking old before their time.
In fact, our hands are one of the first places on the body to show signs of ageing and that's down to the thinness of the skin and the fact that they often get a hefty dose of sun. “The skin on the backs of our hands is especially thin and sensitive, with hardly any fatty tissue and very few sebaceous glands,” explains Dr Sophie Shotter, founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic. “The lack of collagen and elastin in the first place means that even a little sun damage can cause a big change in skin quality.”
Frequent hand washing is also a factor in premature hand ageing. "It strips the skin of its natural oils, which hands have relatively little of, to begin with,” Sophie continues. Throw in the use of hand sanitiser, which has a high concentration of drying alcohol and you’ve got a recipe for dry, chapped hands that look older than their years. Since the start of the year, Sophie has seen a spike in interest in hand treatments and has brought out an at-home and in-clinic brightening peel to meet demands (more below).
Our hands age like any other part of our body - they just do it rather more visibly. Just like our face, hands lose collagen and elastin (aka the bounce-back and padding) with age and sun damage. They become dry, crepey with noticeable hyperpigmentation or age spots.
As hands lose their plumpness they can start to look bony. The skin becomes even thinner and starts to look more translucent and we can see the veins underneath according to aesthetics doctor Dr Bibi Ghalaie of London cosmetic clinic Beauty Aesthetics . (the same thing happens around the eyes - age-related dark circles are caused by blood vessels showing through thin skin). "The loss of subcutaneous tissues and fats not only makes veins more visible but also increases ages spots and pigmentation."
If you have black or dark skin, volume loss isn't such an issue, explains Dr Sophie: "Darker skin has more collagen than pale skin so signs of collagen loss can be delayed but dark skin is very prone to hyperpigmentation and age spots may develop quicker."
How to keep hands soft and youthful
Prevention is always better than a cure and applying sun cream to the back of your hands daily and again after hand washing is essential. Hand cream is key to prevent the skin from losing moisture (transepidermal water loss) and keep paws hydrated and more supple.
To lock in hydration and help to nourish the skin, look for hand creams with hyaluronic acid, glycerine and aloe vera, as well as richer ingredients such as shea butter and rosehip oil, recommends Ziad Halub, head of training for Patchology , which makes super-nourishing hand masks.
Other hand hydrating ingredients Dr Sophie recommends are ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier , vitamin E as a natural moisturiser and urea to soften the skin. Like Ziad she's a fan of glycerine to draw moisture into the skin.
A natural hand cream that's rich in moisture : Zenii Hand and Nail Cream, £27 for 100ml
Containing vitamin E, shea butter and cocoa butter, this is nourishing and moisturising with natural ingredients.
An intensive exfoliating hand cream for dry rough hands: Ameliorate Intensive Hand Treatment , £16 for 75ml
Containing a mixture of natural moisturisers and exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid therapy, this rish cream will help to revitalise even the driest hands.
Designed for heavy work (does lifting dumbbells count?) this harnesses the power of avocado oil which is a natural source of amino acid proteins, and vitamins A, D and E. Use it before and after gardening, cleaning or going out in the cold.
How to prevent treat age-spots on your hands
"If you want to target ageing and pigmentation , the ingredients typically associated with the face will work the same way on the hands," says Ziad. He suggests looking for vitamin C to brighten, liquorice to break up melanin (dark spots) and niacinamide to reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation. Tranexamic acid is also great for zapping sunspots but isn't commonly found in hand creams so you'll need to use your facial skincare for your hands to get their hit. The Inkey List's Tranexamic Acid Overnight Treatment , £14.99, has a cult following for its brightening powers and is inexpensive enough to use on your hands as well as your face.
Dr Sophie offers an at-home kit with a peel and a mask, which costs £110 for six applications. We've tried it and it really is an SOS for age and environment-damaged hands. It leaves your hands, touchably soft and bright.
SPF is also essential when it comes to preventing age spits, of course.
Small enough to slip in your handbag, fragrance-free and good for sensitive skin, this chemical SPF hand cream ticks all the boxes. It protects from both UVA and UVB rays
This dry, non-greasy spray is easy to use on the go so you’ll never forget to reapply and is infused with argan oil for its nourishing properties.
A hyaluronic acid formula for plumping: Prai Ageless Hand Cream, £20 for 124ml
This multi-tasker both fades dark spots and include hyaluronic acid for hydrating and plumping.
How to treat thinning skin on hands
Choose hand cream with retinol (vitamin A) and peptides for textured or thinning skin. “Retinol stimulates elastin and collagen production," says Dr Sophie.
Using a barrier cream is a good shout too to reinforce the skin's natural barrier. Cerave’s Soothing and Repairing Hand Cream , £6, is a budget-friendly option recommended by Dr Bibi and can have a reparative effect on dry and rough hands.
, £37 for 88ml
This is Dr Sophie’s night time favourite and contains a potent anti-ageing combination of coenzyme Q10, niacinamide, retinol, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid.
This slow-release retinol hand cream is an indulgent overnight treat, designed to reduce the signs on ageing on the hands and even out and brighten skin tone. Not a member of Beauty Pie? Join using code GTGSENTME and get an extra £10 to spend.
Lifestyle changes to anti-age hands
1. Choose a nourishing hand sanitiser
It might seem like an extravagance when there’s a wealth of affordable hand sanitisers on the shelves, but investing in a luxe one will make a world of difference. “Cheaper hand sanitisers are often made with harsh ingredients that can strip the skin of its natural oils and moisture,” warns hand and nail expert Margaret Dabbs . Her own hand sanitiser , £25 for 200ml, is infused with emu oil and white water lily and is non-drying to cleanse the hands while hydrating and refreshing at the same time.
2. Apply any spare skincare to the back of your hands
It's an easy habit to get into, whether it's your face cream or even the leftover serum that is in the bottom of your sheet mask packet.
3. Wear gloves - for washing up, when doing a hand treatment and in cold weather
Always wear gloves outdoors in the winter as cold weather makes it hard for our hands to hold onto moisture. Washing up gloves should also always be worn to protect you from the chemicals in washing up liquid and overnight gloves should be worn at bedtime: "I recommend using retinol hand cream at night and wearing cotton gloves to bed to help absorb maximum moisture," says Dr Sophie.
For an extra treat, a glove-style mask can be used of an evening. We like Patchology's The Perfect Ten Hand and Cuticle Treatment Mask , £10. You might look a bit funny wearing these mitten style masks and you are rendered useless while they're on, but they contain rosehip oil and shea butter to deeply condition your hands; they're made from a material that locks in heat to accelerate the delivery of the ingredients for hands that emerge baby-soft.
Clinic treatments and injectables to anti-age hands
1. Injectable fillers for hands
If you want to get serious about improving the look of your hands, there are a variety of in-clinic treatments available. “Dermal fillers such as Profilho and Volite injected into the hands make them look and feel youthful,” says Dr Bibi. “One treatment every few years is sufficient to maintain youthfulness and delay signs of ageing.”
These soft tissue fillers add lost volume to the hands, softening the grooves between the tendons and making veins less visible. They are excellent for giving a deep injection of moisture and some internal collagen and elastin stimulation, says Dr Sophie.
2. Chemical peels for hands
Chemical peels are an option to target age spots and pigmentation. AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) peels work on a more superficial level so you'll need more to see a result, while TCA (trichloroacetic acid) can be used for more extreme cases and people struggling with multiple age spots. Most chemical peels as a course of six sessions for around 12 weeks while TCA can be just a one-off with dramatic results from just seven to ten days post-treatment. TCA peels tend to leave the skin red and tight for a week or so and in-process feel a little tingly.
Try Dr Sophie’s Intense Hand Rejuvenation , £600 for 60 minutes. This treatment includes a brightening peel to slough of dead skin cells and brighten the skin whilst stimulating the cells to hydrate and plump the skin. It also comprises of tiny injections of hyaluronic acid to fill the lines and plump the skin, hydrating it from within. It ends with a hand mask and heat mitts to help the product sink in. You can expect immediate improvement and additional improvement for the following two weeks.
3. Laser resurfacing for hands
Like in-clinic peels, you need a course of these to see results. Try Laser Rejuvenating Hand Lift by Margaret Dabbs London , £150 for 50 minutes. Hailed as a 'facelift for the hands', this treatment uses lasers to reduce wrinkles, tighten skin and even the skin tone by stimulating the growth of healthy skin cells and regenerating lost collagen. It’s recommended you have six sessions, three to four weeks apart for the best results, but hands will look younger immediately post-treatment.
MORE GLOSS: The best hand creams for dry sensitive skin